Comics

AICN COMICS Reviews: LAST BORN! THOR& LOKI & SIS! DIAGRAM FOR DELINQUENTS Documentary! THE DEVILERS! & More!

Published at: July 16, 2014, 1:28 p.m. CST by ambush bug

Logo by Kristian Horn
The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)

Advance Review: LAST BORN #1-2
ORIGINAL SIN: THOR & LOKI - THE 10TH REALM #1
Advance Review: LADY ZORRO #1
Movie Review: DIAGRAM FOR DELINQUENTS Documentary
DOC SAVAGE #7
Advance Review: DR. WHO – THE 10TH DOCTOR #1 & DR. WHO – THE 11TH DOCTOR #1
HENCHMEN INC. #1
Advance Review: THE DEVILERS #1
Raiders of the Long Box presents INFINITY GAUNTLET #3 (1991)


Released this August, 2014!

LAST BORN #1 & #2

Writer: Patrick Meaney
Artist: Eric Zawadzki
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Last October, I rode around lower Manhattan in acab so packed with nerdom jocks across the world all hated nerds and cabs for just a moment. The event was New York Comic Con, and the state of Optimous was greatly inebriated. Had I been sober I would have remembered LAST BORN writer Patrick Meaney tooling around with us. I would have also retained an ounce of our introduction with my paltry reviewing credentials greatly overshadowed by Patrick’s documentary work on almost every influential comic creator ever, his work as part of the business end of Black Mask studios and a whisper of a project that would throw him even deeper into this medium he so clearly adores.

I won’t forget Patrick again, because LAST BORN is one of those rare comics built from the Morrison mold of cosmic scope grounded through the lens of human experience.

In these types of experiments, that scope must be awe-inspiring and the character lens intriguing. Patrick accomplishes this feat by starting on ground level before looking up. Julia is a typical 1960s gal; she has dreams of going to college, which as her overbearing Aunt reminds us is ridiculous for a woman when she has the much better option of being impregnated; she has a sweet beau who wants to filleth her with child, but uppity ol’ Julia insists on being “free to follow her dreams”, whatever that means; and finally, she gets her wish for freedom granted by finding the cave that houses the secret well which drover her father insane in the 1940s and whisks her away to the year 2341 where mankind stands on the cusp of extinction. You know, just typical end of the Eisenhower era girl stuff.

That was the easy part of the two issues. If you feel your brain bleeding out of your ears, move on to something more linear.

In the end days, Julia meets another inhabitant named Ford and his feral lady friend. North America is our focal point, but in this time the entire world has been devoured by a telepathic borg-like species that can share thoughts and transform into any shape your mind finds most soothing--kind of like Odo from “Deep Space Nine”, but way more douchey.

Issue 2 jumps ahead in time a bit to where Julia and crew have settled into a nice rhythm of apocalyptic life. Instead of learning more about her new family, Meaney throws in a new dynamic and with that one action separates LAST BORN from your typical “Stranger in a Strange Land” theme. Another time traveller arrives, and he holds the secret to ending this human Armageddon--only problem is, he will have to end everything.

I wasn’t surprised to really dig the story of LAST BORN. Meaney has not only read the great comics, he breathed in the essence of the creators. I have to believe the instant you shake hands with Morrison if you lick your palm quickly some kind of LSD talent sweat will kick in. Seriously, though--great writers read greater writers, and Patrick has more than done his homework.

Eric Zawadzki keeps a very good pace with Meaney’s prose, with some very inventive panel layouts, especially in issue 2. I ask, though, that he keeps honing his talent on faces and hands. I know they are both a bitch--I have heard enough of my artist friends complain about them--but they really both need a bit more detail to tickle the pleasure centers of the hyper-stylized current mass market of comic consumers.

Black Mask continues to beat a slow and steady rising drumbeat in comics. No matter what your political beliefs, their OCCUPY COMIC was a gargantuan feat in simply wrangling that many creators together. No matter if you agreed or disagreed with the message of each vignette, every story was very well crafted.

With LAST BORN, Black Mask can now add humanistic sci fi to their roster, and I encourage them to keep branching out. Image currently holds the market on comics that will make you think; I say there’s room for another player in town.

When Optimous isn't reviewing comics he is making the IT words chortle and groan with marketing for MaaS360, enterprise mobility management (link these three words to www.maas360.com). He also has a comic coming out sometime soon; for updates head to robpatey.com.


THOR & LOKI: THE TENTH REALM #1

Writers: Jason Aaron & Al Ewing
Artists: Lee Garbett (pgs. 1-17, 20) Simone Bianchi (pgs. 18-19)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel


THOR & LOKI: THE TENTH REALM was one of the ORIGINAL SIN tie-ins I was most looking forward to once the ORIGINAL SIN previews were released, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll disappoint. Now, I’m not well versed on SPAWN and never got into it when I was younger, so I didn’t know much about Angela, the main focus of the series next to Thor and Loki, to know anything about the character’s history outside of her addition in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. A quick Google search quickly cleared that up for me, highlighting some elements of THOR & LOKI: THE TENTH REALM that I previously would not have known but it wouldn’t have hurt if I didn’t.

So the issue begins pretty similarly to every other ORIGINAL SIN title: The Orb releasing The Watcher’s memories from his eye and everyone in the vicinity having their “sins” revealed--in this case for Thor, the sins of his father. In extremely God of Thunder fashion, Thor goes “screw everything else happening right now, that can wait--I have a sister and that sh!% needs explaining”. Not only does Thor discover he has a sister, he also discovers the existence of another realm, and if you can’t put it together from the title, there is a tenth realm within the cosmos of Marvel 616. The prince of Asgard must then enlist the help of his brother Loki, the younger one, while the older schemes and whatnot.

Overall, this was a pretty good book to start off the miniseries and seems like it will add greatly to the Asgardian mythos of Marvel. I think the way Aaron and Ewing presented the Tenth Realm and its inhabitants, it will work smoothly by paying homage to Angela’s original story as an angel in SPAWN but also creating something new in Marvel’s own vision for the character. Pre-TLTTR (THOR & LOKI: THE TENTH REALM), Angela without knowing she was or would be Asgardian, also already had the perfect character traits to be one, so this doesn’t come as a surprise to her mystery.

The miniseries also gives some added focus to Loki’s own problems and dealing with his destiny. Does he carve out his own future or follow what the Old Loki has explained is what he will become? So not only does it seem TLTTR will focus on Angela’s past but Loki’s future, with Thor kind of in the middle, most likely being a catalyst for something big, according to Old Loki from re-entering the Tenth Realm.

TLTTR’s artwork was also excellent, although I didn’t really understand the two page switch from Garbett to Bianchi, then back to Garbett. It wasn’t a bad change; I actually enjoyed Bianchi’s two pages better than Garbett’s, personally, simply because it felt more like the art in THOR: GOD OF THUNDER--which isn’t to take away from Garbett at all, just personal preference because I really did enjoy what he did in this issue and what he’s been doing with LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD.

In TLTTR, the art style Garbett uses utilizes a lot of contrast between a brighter shine and an extensive use of shadowing. Emotions are consistently expressed with perfect emphasis, with none of them feeling out of place or less than the scene required. He does a great job in the battles scenes and excels whenever Loki is present, particularly the present Loki. Between the battle of Asgard against the Tenth Realm and Thor flying through space with Loki on Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, Garbett has some really excellent pieces throughout the book, to highlight my favorite ones.

Do I recommend this book? Hell yeah--between art and story, it definitely seems like it’ll be an extremely entertaining adventure with the royal brothers of Asgard searching for their long lost sister, along with Old Loki playing games in the background and adding another realm to the Marvel mythos. I would think that this miniseries will open up a lot of stories down the road for Loki, Thor, and Angela, along with anything relating to Asgard. Even if it’s one of those things that isn’t as important as Marvel says it is, the first part of the series was extremely fun, so I can only hope and assume the other four issues will also be. While TLTTR isn’t needed for ORIGINAL SIN, this is a tie in I would highly recommend picking up.


In stores today!

LADY ZORRO #1

Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Rey Villegas
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


When Lady Rawhide isn't enough, send for Lady Zorro! Yup, Dynamite has decided to give their Zorro line another shot, but instead of doing the big man himself, they are revisiting his female copycat (first seen in Dynamite's ZORRO RIDES AGAIN series by Matt Wagner). Even though Matt Wagner's run on Zorro was mighty boring (sorry, Matt--I love just about everything else you do), I did find Lady Zorro interesting--and not because of her brazier. You see, Lady Zorro has the typical “bad guys (in Zorro's world, see soldiers) raped and killed my family” origin, but instead of becoming a hero, she became more of a butcher, killing any soldier she saw. Zorro managed to calm her down and she eventually gave up killing--until now.

Let's talk spoilers, shall we? So a new big bad has moved into good old Los Angeles: Condesa Estruc. Her money has bought her an army of German mercenaries, and she is pretty much taking over. Apparently she is still in Spain and Zorro is off meet her head on. In the meantime, he's asked Lady Zorro to come out of 'retirement' and help the local soldiers (her sworn enemies) put a stop to the Condesa's malicious action homeside. Somehow her pirate army can boss the local law enforcement around. Esperanz (aka Lady Zorro) says what the hell and teams up with some soldier named Hugo, who in typical fashion kisses her after a fight scene. To start off with they need to steal some scarred Chumash (Native American) ax from the Condesa's right hand man, General Von Detmar. So they crash his party (an excuse to see Esperanz in a dress) and chaos ensues, including the somewhat mandatory chick fight. In a nutshell, everything is rather brief and ill-executed, but I give de Campi points for bring in Lady Zorro's 'Joe Chill': turns out General Von Detmar was the guy in charge when the army destroyed her family.

De Campi's writing really blows through story without much care. For the most part she blows off any attempt to explain why characters agree to work together, aside from “we must!” For example (it not really a spoiler, I promise), Captain Ramon is in the story. At least I think he is--He's called Captain Ramon but he looks white and blond. If this is 'the' Captain Ramon, sworn enemy of Zorro, why is he coming off so nice, and why doesn't Esperanz just want to murder him where he stands? In addition to that, everything is rather cliché in this issue. We've seen it done before many times, and often better. Now sometimes a writer can get away with speeding through certain set-up plot points, but this is usually done when the readers are more interested in getting to the meat of the story (Superman fighting Spider-Man, being in the haunted house) and rationalizing the plot will just bore everyone. Here I don't know what the meat of the story is and de Campi is blowing past something that's fairly central to the character.

Artist Rey Villegas, unfortunately, seems to be following suit. As one of the artists on LADY RAWHIDE, you can see how he's a natural for this book. He surely knows how to draw hot women, and his figures in general are all really nice. His background work is serviceable too. Where he comes short is in storytelling. As with many comic book artists, they can draw panels, but that can't really tell a story. He misses every opportunity to heighten drama and clarify the story direction. Just like de Campi, he appears to be just going through the motions.

At best this first issue is about the creators getting their sea legs. De Campi and Villegas can easily improve their game as this series continues and make it worth reading.







 


DIAGRAM FOR DELINQUENTS Documentary (2014)

Written and Directed by: Robert A. Emmons Jr.
Distributor: Sequart
Reviewed by: BottleImp


Any comic book reader who knows the merest morsel about the medium’s history will know one event as the Worst Thing To Happen To Comics Ever. To use unwarranted and highly inappropriate hyperbole, some fans will liken this event to the Holocaust, and its chief instigator will be compared to Adolf Hitler. The event in question was the United States Senate subcommittee hearing on juvenile delinquency of 1954, and its chief boogeyman was noted psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham. Wertham’s book, the infamous “Seduction of the Innocent,” blasted comic books for contributing to the rise of juvenile delinquency in the United States and damaging the minds of impressionable young children. Horror and crime comics were specifically targeted by the psychiatrist, though superhero books also found themselves in Wertham’s crosshairs. The government hearings effectively exterminated the horror and crime genres and crushed the sales of comic books for years. But can the blame for the widespread censorship of the medium be laid entirely at Wertham’s feet? In his documentary DIAGRAM FOR DELINQUENTS, writer/director Robert A. Emmons Jr. takes a closer look at the demonizing of comic books in the 1950s, and gives the viewers a better glimpse of the man behind the curtain in looking at Wertham and his contribution to the anti-comics fervor.

Emmons uses a mix of archival photographs and interviews, audio and video from the subcommittee hearings and interviews with modern journalists, psychiatrists and comic book industry professionals to show a more in-depth look at the people and events that led to the creation of the regulatory Comics Code Authority. Much of the material presented will be passing familiar to those versed in this dark point in comic book history; what is more interesting is the filmmaker’s analysis of Dr. Wertham himself. Comics fans who may have only known Wertham third-hand, as it were, through the stories about his book condemning comics might be surprised to learn that the psychiatrist was extremely liberal—-bordering on Socialist, in fact. Wertham founded a psychiatric clinic in Harlem for children who couldn’t afford traditional professional help. But it was when he made the tenuous connection between the mental health of his patients and the fiction they read that Wertham’s crusade against comic books began.

The documentary never exonerates Wertham in his role of chief censor, but it does put his views and the general state of the industry in the context of the times. Wertham’s questionable methods in presenting his views in “Seduction of the Innocent” are presented alongside the fact that his goal was to keep the images of violence away from the children rather than censor the material for all audiences. The blow that the subcommittee hearings dealt to the comic book industry was compounded greatly by the emergence of the medium of television—-a familiar problem in today’s marketplace, where smartphones and video games command the attention that the four color printed page once held. Emmons seems to come to the conclusion that Wertham’s biggest problem with comic books is that he never really understood them; the psychiatrist and the “threat” of horror and crime comics were simply tools used by the political machine to try to control the changing face of the youth culture.

DIAGRAM FOR DELINQUENTS contains some interesting nuggets of obscure information, but the documentary doesn’t really cover any ground unknown by those familiar with the story of the crusade against comic books of the ‘50s. But for those who might not have thought to look back at the path the medium has had to walk to get where it is today, DIAGRAM FOR DELINQUENTS is a well-researched and comprehensive history lesson, and should be required viewing for anyone who ever wondered what the fuss was over those silly old monster comics, anyway.

When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.

DOC SAVAGE #7

Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


Dynamite's latest pulp hero revival is nearing its end. On a quick side note, it seems Dynamite has given up on ongoing series and is focusing on limited runs. Considering the public's buying habits, probably not a bad idea. So with one issue left, DOC SAVAGE is coming to a close, but right around the corner is JUSTICE INC., where Doc Savage will team up with The Avenger and The Shadow (Batman and The Spirit will stay at home this time), which I'm really looking forward to. Now back to this book.

Chris Roberson, who penned MASKS and THE SHADOW for Dynamite, got to stink his teeth into the Man of Bronze for eight issues and has pretty much delivered. Each issue has focused on a different decade, giving us a look at how Doc, his team, his mission, and his technology have evolved over the years. Moving from the 1930s until today (somehow silphum keeps him young), Roberson has managed to tell seven standalone stories that still relate and build off each other (something that Warren Ellis isn't even trying in MOON KNIGHT). This final tale, a two parter, uses elements from the previous issues, but it not really necessary for you to have read them to read this.

Ok, let's get into some plot and spoilers--stuff that Roberson is going a great job with. So Doc Savage's main goal in life is to make the world a better place. He doesn't just fight crime, he creates technology and sciences for the world as well, including his special treatment of criminals--some might call it brainwashing. And when the world learns of it, that is just what they call it. And the debate begins: is having criminal tendencies a form of mental illness? Is Doc Savage's 'cure' no different than a cure for people with personality disorders? Then of course, as soon as former bad guys are cured from the cure, they immediately start planning revenge on Doc--and pretty much the world! Again, a lot of these plot points have developed over the past six issues. So while you don't need to read them, they do help enrich this tale. And now that the bad guys have hacked the Savage Smartphone and are using it to kill everyone, it's going to be fun to see how Doc Savage puts an end to it.

I gotta say, Roberson is doing a great job with this book. It's quite superior to his previous work on MASKS and THE SHADOW since he is not only telling rollicking adventure tales, but giving some perspective to the character over the years. Everything in Doc's life has changed. His original team of associates has all passed away, but his organizations have kept growing into a huge corporation, and making the world a better place is not enough, as he must deal with how people view his mission. I'm not sure I'd hand out an Eisner, but Roberson is doing some impressive work here.

Artist Bilquis Evely, who has drawn every issue, does another bang-up job here. He has a nice clean style that blends well with the do-gooding adventures of Doc Savage. Both his backgrounds and figure are well drawn, and his storytelling and action isn't bad either. He has a solid and interesting style, but to get Marvel and DC's attention I think he needs to kick up the volume in how he creates drama. A good artist doesn't just draw drama, they create it.

If you've never read Doc Savage, this series is a great jumping on point for you. If you are a longtime fan (which I am not), I imagine Roberson is breaking some eggs here, but I think you will enjoy the evolution of the character and his world through Roberson’s eyes. I’m excited for the final issue, but disappointed to see it end, too--but then I can't wait to read JUSTICE INC., either.


In stores next Wesnesday, July 23!

DR WHO: THE TENTH DOCTOR #1 & DR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR #1

Writers: Nick Abadzis (10th) & Al Ewing, Rob Williams (11th)
Artists: Elena Casagrande (10th) & Simon Fraser (11th)
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Context is required in any serious discussion about the underdog story of a man, his pal(s), and his precious box that recently celebrated a 50 Year Anniversary celebrated on both sides of the big pond. Before getting into the meat of these new Titan titles, fans of the show deserve their talking points.

There are two breeds of Dr. Who fans, a lesson I learned quite painfully during our Spoiler Alert Comics Podcast segment “Popthing,” where we show no subtlety and branding and simply discuss some other pop culture thing we dig outside of comic books. Mine was my unabashed Doctor Delirium. Since that segment aired, week after week I keep getting ones upon ones of letters telling me what a complete asshole I am.

See, I’m the new breed of Doctor fan, the one that started with Christopher Eccleston in the 2005 reboot. According to my detractors, the ones who have been married to this show since the time when the T.A.R.D.I.S.’ engine sound was made by rubbing a house key on a piano string, this new iteration is too much CW and not enough BBC. I’ve watched some of the old ones, and I can’t disagree with the stalwarts who stood by the show through the 20th century, but I also know what I like: science fiction that crosses the entire span of existence and experience including, yes, a bit of rom-com.

While pure comics fans can make the transition from being unenlightened on Britain’s best export, here is not the place to do it. The one page opener of each book is simply “this is the Doctor, here’s his T.A.R.D.I.S. that gets him through space and time, and here’s his screwdriver that does everything else”, which will get newbies up to speed, but you won’t get the impact of what these books deliver to Dr. Who canon--namely, two new companions and I believe Doctor 10, David Tennant, is about to give the T.A.R.D.I.S. key to the first American. If I’m wrong, I implore all Whovians reading to please correct me.

Like most Who companions, Gabriella is a girl grounded by financial circumstance dreaming of something bigger. Native to New York, she is a first generation Mexican-American toiling for her Father’s businesses while letting her artistic side wither and die. When the day of the dead starts bringing real dead to the forefront, Doc 10 and Gabriella collide in a subway of probable (but not likely) doom.

As for Doc 11, his larger flourish is juxtaposed with a far dourer companion. Alice is middle-aged, just lost her Mother, is facing financial ruin and just came face to face with a space dog who feeds on human hate and mistrust.

We talk a great deal about the necessity of books these days; as a Dr. Who fan I found both tales to be a fulfilling feast to tide me over until the series starts up again. Premise-wise it makes absolute sense the Doctors could have had other companions than the ones we knew from TV, and while I don’t expect Alice or Gabriella to replace the Ponds or Rose in my heart, some companions in my life are better than none.

For the Dr. Who fan on a tight budget, my preference for best transition from TV to comics is Doctor Eleven. Don’t fear about Doctor bias, either. I love them all equally.

Ewing and Williams truly hit the first note essentials for a new Doctor/companion meeting; it’s about the wonderment of discovery for both The Doctor and his new shipmate, it’s about showing how the things that go bump in the night always have a rational explanation (even if it’s worse than our original supernatural fears), and it remembers the essential mantra of the Doctor: hope from despair.

Doctor Ten is a fine tale, but it is far more comic booky in pacing. We spend probably a little too much time on Gabriella’s drudgery and not enough time watching Tennant’s fascination at gadgetry that whirs and pings. Outside of these base references, I honestly didn’t feel a ton of Tennant’s swashbuckling arrogance until the very last page.

As for the rendering the Doctor, his new first mates, and their respective tours through London and New York, I applaud both teams for not going overboard on likenesses. There’s a tendency in licensed properties to get so close to the actors the imagery all becomes stiff and disjointed; neither of these book ever fall into that trap. My only critique is going to be tossed at a lack of detail, especially in smaller panels with multiple characters. There has become a fashion these days in leaving background characters as amorphous blobs with the outline of a head and no other discernable features. Sorry, guys--that might work in some books, but not against a fan base scouring every detail of the page and scene for clues on what’s next.

Great jaunts and some fun back-up material (loved the comic strip where the Ponds try to parent River Song like an actual teenager) make these a must for Who fans and a good supplement for comics fans who are willing to watch the shows first. We don’t have a hell of a lot of sci fi on the comics shelves these days; if I can get that fix along with the smoothest dorks to wear chucks and bed Queen Elizabeth, then all the better.


HENCHMEN INC. #1

Writer: Tim Simmons
Artist: Jim McMunn
Publisher: Monkeybrain Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


A man has gotta do what a man has gotta do. That old nutshell that no one can pin down the origin of if you held a vat of delicious, delicious acid over their heads, but still, it sums things up pretty aptly when necessary. Such necessity is really the drive behind HENCHMEN INC., a new comic book of that indie variety that attempts to take on some good old comic tropes all while finding a personalized touch to hook in the reader. And y’know what? I think it actually a success.

Focusing on the henchmen - those rascals who are essentially fodder for supervillains to distract their spandex clad counterparts – feels like that kind of outside the box one-shot you get from time to time but that no one has really gone in deep with. For example, I vividly remember that old “Batman: The Animated Series” episode where some poor schlub working for The Joker actually “offs” the Bat (spoiler: he didn’t really) and that made for a very unique capes and tights tale that I imagine has been mimicked a few times since, even though I, a man who reads a fuckton of comics, cannot really place any other instances of them. That brings us to Michael Finch, product of a broken home and raised smack dab in the middle of a crime hole of a neighborhood. All he has known is petty thievery and failure at being a decent human, and now he’s getting out of the klink seven months after a right jab to the face from a costumed crusader put him their while he was looting some apartments.

All this leads to a man who needs a change but cannot find his way out of the same spiral he’s been caught in since childhood. Michael gets out and immediately gets maudlin for Katie, the girl he left behind going into the slammer, and who now wants nothing to do with him understanding what it is he was doing all the time they were together. First night out of jail, though, Michael gets buzzed up with his partner in crime (literally), Dex, and makes the mistake of visiting Katie to find her with seven months of baby bump going. That is the money shot of the personal hook I was talking about and really drives home what this comic is essentially (hopefully) going to be about as it progresses. Sure, there are going to be little in-jokes and jabs at the nature of the henchman and the ridiculousness of the supervillains that hire them and the superheroes that punch them in the jaws, but that startling revelation that Michael is now on the precipice of being the same POS that his father was by providing a shitty (i.e. none at all) future for his child pushes Michael right into the titular organization of HENCHMEN INC.

HENCHMEN INC. is just what it sounds like: an organized group of miscreants, wannabes, and guys like Michael who have nowhere else to go and can take a hit from a sadist in a cape and cowl. Now, I’m not sure exactly how any of this can even actually exist but, y’know, semantics. It’s a means to an end for Michael to provide for his in utero family and as a way to kind of poke and prod at one of the more absurd mechanics of the superhero genre. And there are some good pokes throughout this book, as I know up to this point I’ve probably made it sound a little too serious as Michael’s plight is pretty harsh, that being of a man who has always been the opposite of what he wanted to be in life and is pretty much as low as one can go while also having a child on the way. The jabs taken are a little typical – a conversation about how one of the capes that busted Michael is free to run around with a minor and put them in front of gunfire but Michael is the bad guy for making an “immoral buck” is one example – but they do keep the spirit of the book high enough to counterweight the troublesome life crossroads at which Michael finds himself, but I would not in any way (at least so far) call this a pure spoof or comedy book. If anything, that is also a similar crossroads the creative crew will have to navigate as they’ll have to decide if more jokes are in order to keep the spirits high in the book and find a niche in the kind of parodying material we’ve all grown up with, and then just how serious will they want these new adventures Michael finds himself in to go because I could see some real nefarious shit going down if they so chose. The balance of these ideas, I feel, will really drive the appeal of this book as it develops.

Finally, the art of HENCHMEN INC. seems like a perfect fit in that it helps the book go both ways between those dramatic bits and the times where it does a little bit of genre mocking. McMunn’s art has a little bit of exaggeratedness in its sharp lines so that when shit happens like, for example, Michael taking a zip line-enhanced flying kick to the face when coming out of a window with a sack of stolen goods, you can’t help but chuckle at the ridiculousness. But there’s some genuine emoting going on in linework that does have a slight cartoonishness to it, as we especially see in the shock on Michael’s face when he sees a seven month pregnant Katie and spends the next couple pages sobering up to that reality. Overall it is a great companion to what the script is putting forth here, making HENCHMEN INC. a nice package of storytelling and art that has both some smiles and somber and, most importantly, a lot of potential to meld the two aspects into a comic book that tells a genuinely unique story birthed out of one of its oldest tropes. That achievement right there makes this book worth keeping on your radar.

Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.


In stores today!

THE DEVILERS #1

Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art: Matt Triano
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


THE DEVILERS feels like it was ripped from the dark Marvel comics of the 70s. There's an air of danger paired with some superhero tropes that really does make it feel like the pages of the book you're reading have been yellowed through time and maybe have some frayed edges from multiple readings. Like some stolen pages from the Darkhold or the Necronomicon, THE DEVILERS feels like it is tapping into something dirty and sinful--like something you shouldn't be reading, but something compels you to do so. It's this feeling that I think will definitely entice those who like their comics on the more macabre side to dive headfirst into the world Joshua Hale Fialkov has created.

The basic plot follows a priest who admits to a researcher skeptic named Lieb in a bar that all of the Vatican's claims of demons, the devil, and the supernatural are a hoax. Father Malcolm introduces us to the world of the Devilers by stating that all of the mystical and supernatural tales are bunk and can be scientifically explained in one way or another, and he does so for three events which were considered to be otherworldly in the first three panels. Switch to a news report that the Vatican has fallen into a large sinkhole and caught ablaze and a smoking cardinal rushing into the bar asking for Malcolm's help and we are on our way to a bona fide skepticism vs. faith story.

This first issue does a lot of things right. First it introduces what looks to be our main characters, a jaded priest and a skeptic researcher, and plops them into a situation that is definitely going to challenge what we already know about them. Then it introduces a challenge which is both unique and interesting as the Vatican collapses into a hell pit and monstrous demons begin pouring out. To add to that awesomeness, we are also introduced to a team of what looks to be superpowered mystics, each identified in true comic book fashion by having their name and powers explained to us in one big splash. Pair that with some awesome demonic happenings and imagery and you've got a book I can't wait to see develop over the next seven issues of this miniseries.

Josh Fialkov is always a strong writer in my book. I feel he not only always sets up his story with a solid foundation and structure, but here he seems to be channeling those awesome DEFENDERS comics of the 70's where the team took on all kinds of Lovecraftian goodness. Along with Fialkov comes artist Matt Triano, who I am not familiar with, but draws in a Butch Guice meets Phil Winslade manner with a little of Doug Braithwaite in there as well. Triano is hyper-detailed, yet gives his demons amorphous forms to suggest that we are only seeing the tip of the horrors these beasts carry with them in their visage. Triano's doublewide pages of mass destruction of the Vatican and the demons spilling forth from it are mesmerizing in their use of heavy darks and shadows, showing just enough to thrill and chill and leaving the rest for our own wild imaginations to fill in.

Dynamite and Fialkov have a winner on their hands with THE DEVILERS. While some of the powers and set up feel like they belong in a Marvel mystic team book, it's got enough dark themes and tones to make it feel more akin to something by Clive Barker by way of the REC movie franchise mythos. Fans of dark lore done right in four colors on the paneled page are going to eat this book up, as it is definitely horror comics done right.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

Be sure to tell your comic shop to order his new comic PIROUETTE from July’s Diamond Previews (item code JUL14 0937) today!




THE INFINITY GAUNTLET #3

Published on July 16th, 1991
Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: George Perez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


As I've mentioned before, summer usually means big events in the comic book world. Why, even now DC and Marvel are cranking out big titles like FUTURES END and ORIGINAL SIN. Back in the 90s Marvel was cranking out what would become arguably their highest watermark for event cross-overs, so let's wind the clock back to 23 years ago this week for THE INFINITY GAUNTLET #3!

July 1991: the world had just seen Operation Desert Storm hit Iraq and “Street Fighter II” hit arcades. Rodney King got hit by the LAPD and the video hit the nightly news. Comedy Central launched on cable and the Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched to study gamma rays (I had to mention that). Both the Warsaw Pact and South African apartheid came to an end. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS beat out BEAUTY AND THE BEAST for Best Picture of the Year, CHEERS won Outstanding Comedy Series, and Mariah Carey was the Best New Artist. In the world of comic books, the best double-edged blade it ever had came into being with WIZARD Magazine, and the industry was starting to boom. DC was becoming the house of story with guys like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison. Marvel was becoming the house of art with guys like Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld and Todd Macfarlane, and Jim Starlin had returned to Marvel after several years of working for DC. This all allowed Starlin to bring back his old Marvel cosmic toys from the 1970s in a mega-crossover the likes of which Marvel hadn't really seen since the SECRET WARS days: THE INFINITY GAUNTLET!

Here we are, the halfway point of Jim Starlin and George Perez's budding masterpiece. This is probably the whole reason Starlin came back to Marvel, and what a really great way to bring Perez back to the Marvel U as well. Kinda funny that Perez actually has two big events happening at the same time, as WAR OF THE GODS just kicked off at DC. A bit of a shame, too, since Perez isn't doing full pencils for WAR OF THE GODS—well, DC's loss, I guess.

So let's get into spoiler territory as we go over the plot. On the bad side, not a heck of a lot happens here. But in a way that's kind of how Starlin is structuring this series. Each issue seems to be covering a story beat. First one--Pow! Thanos f's up the universe. Second one--people deal with the destruction. Third one--heroes come together to do something about Thanos. The good part is, the scale and scope of the story makes everything so damn exciting! So in this issue, Thanos is still trying to get into Death's pants (as it were), but like any guy who has tried too hard, you know that doesn't work. Thanos even makes himself a new girlfriend, Terraxia (though she kinda looks like his sister, if he had one), to try and make Death jealous. It's pretty sad and amusing what little game Thanos has. Meanwhile his new oppose number (because I always thought Captain Marvel was his opposite number--you know, the blond guy. Makes me wonder if he'll come back from the grave too), Adam Warlock, is putting together a team of heroes--mostly Avengers attack Thanos. I'm a little disappointed the Fantastic Four is dead and not here, and that the X-Men doesn’t have a greater representation. But they always seem to get shafted in these big affairs. Doctor Doom, on the other hand, does get membership in this assault squad, which creates a lot of fun for our heroes, and surely some curve balls to come in the story. One extra cool moment is when Warlock tells The Hulk and Wolverine that lethal force has been approved in dealing with Thanos. Now, as powerful as this team of heroes is, it's not enough, so Warlock brings in Galactus, Love, Hate, Chaos, Order, The Stranger, Celestials--holy crap! I said this was exciting, didn't I? With everyone now ready to kick Thanos’ @$$, we'll have to wait for the next issue. As the little kid said in SUPERMAN II, “This is gonna be good.”

Before I get to the awesomeness of George Perez I want to take a moment to talk about Jim. As a writer, it's not enough to have a great idea: Thanos gains the ultimate weapon and threatens to remake the universe. You also have to execute that story in an interesting and believable way, and that's what Starlin is really getting right here. Not only is it cool to see all these characters together, but Starlin has them all working together--whether that be them arguing, musing or rabblerousing. From Warlock talking to Galactus to the Hulk hanging out with Wolverine and even Captain America dealing with Dr. Doom, all good stuff. On top of that, he's rebuilding two great characters, Adam Warlock and Thanos. All this added to the epic plot makes this story better than your typical cosmic adventure tale.

Then of course you have George Perez as well. Who is-- you've heard it all before--awesome, amazing, fantastic, gorgeous. Nobody, I mean nobody, can draw a crowd of superheroes better than Perez! It's like he is just as excited to see the results of the picture as we are, so he just works his @$$ off on getting it right. As I said before, it's awesome to see him work with the Marvel characters again. DC really screwed up in letting him go (but so will Marvel when they finally lose him too).

Marvel fans, if you are not buying this series, seriously get your head checked. DC fans, get over here right now. Yeah I know DC's better, blah, blah, blah--this series is going to show you how awesome the Marvel U can be (you can still prefer DC when it's over). That's all: this series is living up to the hype, it's superhero comics on a epic cosmic scale, and what comic book fan doesn't like that?

Unfortunately, due to the emotional toll George Perez experienced leaving DC, I understand getting punched in the gut is a good way to describe it, he never finished THE INFINITY GAUNTLET. He, of course, would return to DC for some serious work in the new millennia on various projects like THE RETURN OF DONNA TROY, BRAVE AND THE BOLD, LEGION OF THREE WORLDS and others. Currently he's on the outs with DC again, and while dealing with some health issues, he's also working on a creator-owned project with Boom! Studios, SIRENS. His work still remains a benchmark of the industry.

Really starting with THE INFINITY GAUNTLET, Jim Starlin blew the doors off Marvel making Adam Warlock, and more importantly Thanos, major players in the Marvel U. To this day Thanos remains Marvel's number one villain (not bad for a Darkseid clone). Years of Warlock and Infinity titles would follow THE INFINITY GAUNTLET including two progressively weaker sequels: INFINITY WAR and INFINITY CRUSADE. As usual, the company in charge will often feel the creator has outlived their usefulness to the characters, and Starlin would head back to DC in 2006, working on their cosmic characters in MYSTERY IN SPACE, DEATH OF THE NEW GODS, STRANGE ADVENTURES and others. Currently he just ended the latest run of STORMWATCH in the New 52, but he'll always be a star, as far as Marvel's cosmic is concerned.


Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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